Be the Best Resident: 10 Tips for Success

James M. Lebret, MD


May 25, 2016

Tip 4: Learn How to Recover From Mistakes

It's not a question of if but when we will make a mistake. Our experts recommend a balance of mindfulness and reflection in the face of an error. "Understand that if you practice medicine, you will make mistakes. The key is to learn from them," says Jon LaPook, MD, professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and chief medical correspondent at CBS Nightly News. We all make mistakes. The goal is recovery, which can take the form of confiding in a trusted colleague or attending a Deliberate Practice session.

Tip 5: Stay Humble and Ask for Help

Nurses, therapists, and—most of all—your patients can teach you a great deal if you keep an open mind. "Be the first to admit when you don't know," says Dr Roach. "You can learn from anybody, but you aren't likely to if you think you already know all you need to."

"Listen to your patients. If you let them talk long enough, they'll actually tell you what's the matter," says Dr LaPook, who recently founded NYU's groundbreaking Empathy Project, the goal of which is to improve the interaction of health professionals and patients by creating a video curriculum that teaches empathy.

Dr Altszuler further explains, "Take advantage of the opportunities to learn from everyone around you. You will not only take better care of patients by talking to them and understanding their history and presentation to the hospital, but that also will help solidify your 'illness script'—the key features—of individual disease. One main role of the attending is to teach, but don't be afraid to ask more probing questions about clinical reasoning and decision-making. It is especially important to ask why, in order to thoroughly understand disease processes as well as the evaluation and management of patients."

Tip 6: Accept That Some Patients Will Die

Dr Alina Baciu, a fourth-year general surgery resident and chief editor of says, "Realize that you cannot save everyone. This is a reality that every medical professional has to face. We treat people, not diseases, and everyone reacts differently to treatment. Even if you do everything right, it sometimes isn't enough. This fact can make even the most weathered physician feel like all of her hard work is futile. Do not get discouraged; death is something that you will be battling every day, yet your work and passion will never be irrelevant."


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: